Data Doctors Tech Tips
Tech Tips for Non-Tech People
We give quick, one minute tech tips each weekday! Join us on a radio station near you as we talk tech. It's Tech Tips for Non-Tech People! You can post questions on Facebook anytime!
It’s not hard to take for granted the amazing technology in our smartphones these days, but they’re more powerful than what NASA used to get us to the moon in the 60’s.
They include amazingly sophisticated camera technology so we can all take incredible images without the need to be a professional photographer, right?
Not so much…
Features like auto-focus, auto-white balance, auto-exposure and auto-color correction can’t help you with your pictures if you don’t understand composition.
The very helpful rule of thirds seems to be a challenge for many emerging photographers and thankfully, there’s an app for that.
The Camera 51 app concentrates its efforts on helping novice photographers with the all important composition.
It uses the sophistication of your smartphone to analyze scenes you’re getting ready to capture to provide you with an on-screen guide to suggest where you should point the camera.
If you’re looking to dramatically improve your pictures through better composition, check out the free Camera51 app for iPhone or Android smartphones.
Today’s tip focuses on the ongoing issue that we all deal with on a regular basis...grocery shopping.
If you’re like most families, you use paper lists, text messages, emails or even a chalkboard on the refrigerator and keeping track of what’s on-hand adds to the fun.
The bigger your family unit is, the more complicated the problem becomes, as requests for items to be added to the list comes from everyone, on any day and through any of the potential channels.
If you’re looking to reduce the hassles of keeping everything on track, checkout the Capitan app.
Think of it as a grocery list on steroids that learns what you’re family regularly buys as well as organize the list to come closer to how things are displayed in the grocery store.
You can even use location services on your phone so the app can remind you of the list when you walk into your grocery store as well as alert your family that you just walked into the store should hey need any last minute items.
Checkout this cool app at http://www.getcapitan.com
Professional football is a national obsession this time of year, with fantasy football leagues that range from one week to the entire season becoming just as popular.
Fantasy football, for many fans, creates a reason to watch meaningless games, which makes it very popular with both the fans and the league.
If you’re looking to add yet another dimension to being part of each game, a real-time prediction app called ringit! Pro is something to check out.
It’s a play-by-play fantasy app that allows you to predict the next play while watching your live games.
You accumulate points for making the right picks, while competing with others throughout the game.
It’s fast-paced interactions that allow you to act like your the coach during the game and compare your skills with your fellow fans.
iPhone users can download ring it! from the App Store, while Android users have to download it directly from their website:
The task of transferring files between a mobile device and a computer is becoming more common these days.
Whether you've got a large HD video you shot on your smartphone and you want to edit it on your PC or a large number of PDFs that you want to review on an airplane that doesn't offer wifi, there’s a cool solution for that.
Infinit is group of free apps for just about any mobile device or computer and it makes transferring files between them all super simple.
If you're one of the millions that now regularly uses multiple operating system platforms, Infinit will be infinitely faster to use than other sharing tools such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive because it eliminates the upload/download process.
Infinit uses peer-to-peer connections, so files can be transferred directly between your devices.
Because I use an Android handset and a Macbook laptop, Infinit allows me to quickly share my files and folders between them with no file size restrictions like all the others impose on users.
It’s also a great sharing tool groups, so give it a go at https://infinit.io
E-mail these days tend to be inefficient and often a dangerous way to communicate, but it is still the method of choice for most businesses.
If your business is not getting a timely response to the messages you're sending, it could be due to your choices in when you send them according to a recent study.
An e-mail marketing company called Yesware analyzed over half a million email messages and discovered that the open and reply rates for email are actually higher on the weekends. Why? Maybe because your message doesn't have to compete with as many other messages on the weekends.
The study also showed that messages sent early in the morning (between 6am & 7am) and in the evening (closer to 8pm) got responses at a higher rate.
If you want to test these times for yourself, learn how to schedule your important email messages as most e-mail programs have an option or an add-in that can send your messages when you want them to be seen.
For more details on the Yesware study, I’ve posted the link at DataDoctors.com/radio
If you’re just beginning your exploration of the wonderful but confusing world of wine like millions of others, there’s a different kind of wine club that you may want to take a look at.
Think of it as a Netflix for wine when you visit http://TastingRoom.com.
The key to their approach is helping you to figure out your preferred wine profile by using a 6 bottle tasting kit that gets sent to at your initial sign up for the service.
When you get the kit, you simply go to their online guided tasting challenge which helps them learn what flavors and varietals your palate prefers .
Based on this process, you’ll start to get sent wine to you or you can customize the shipment if you know what you really want to drink.
If you don’t like something that’s sent to you, each bottle is guaranteed so you can get it replaced or credited towards future bottles.
The key to refining your choices is to continue to update ratings you give each bottle you get sent, so your wine discovery will tend to be more spot on as you go.
Learn all about it at https://www.tastingroom.com
If you are a photography buff, you'll probably already know that Adobe’s Lightroom image editing software is amongst the best available.
Well anyone that wants to take their smartphone photography to the next level should checkout the super powerful mobile app version of Lightroom.
It has many more refined controls, which will blow away the basic filters that your built-in camera app offers as well as most other third-party apps available.
It offers more than 40 presets that are fine tuned to let you enhance your images with just a tap of a button. It’s a powerful tool that even a novice can make use of.
The advanced manual adjustments will allow you to achieve edits that would never be possible with standard editing apps.
You can also copy any of your favorite edits across multiple photos at the same time.
The free Lightroom app works on the iPhone, iPad and Android devices and give anyone looking to step up their smartphone photo game a huge boost.
I’m always on the hunt for tech that embellishes our daily lives and one of my all-time favorites is the free website known as If This Then That or IFTTT for short.
This awesome website can help put the Internet to work for you by creating something they refer to as recipes that can leverage your online life in incredible ways.
For example, you can use a recipe to automagically create reminders on your smartphone whenever you click the star on a Gmail message or send a text to your significant other when you're leaving work.
IFTTT integrates with over 160 different online services and with a huge library of existing recipes that have been created by others in the community.
If you’ve got a vivid imagination yourself, you can assemble your own recipes and share them with the rest of the world.
IFTTT also offers apps for iPhones, iPads and Android users that allow you to create recipes just about anywhere.
If you’ve never heard of IFTTT, do yourself a favor and checkout http://IFTTT.com to get started with the fun and productivity.
Just how many remote control devices are laying around your living room right now?
And even if you've gotten it down to one universal remote, how often are you having to go search for it?
You always have your smartphone, so wouldn't it be awesome if you could just turn it into your universal remote?
Well, you may have a smartphone that's got the hardware and only needs an app to make it happen.
Any Android handset that has infrared built-in needs only to install a free app called Peel to turn it into a universal remote device.
If you're an iPhone user, you can get a device called Pronto which pairs with the free Peel app to get the job done on iOS devices.
The Pronto costs about $50 and is essentially a multi-directional receiver/transmitter that has a range of about 80 feet.
It uses common AA batteries which should last about a year, so it can be set up just about anywhere in your house.
It's currently designed to work with iPhones only, but a long-rumored Android version is supposedly in the works.
Learn all about it at http://GetPronto.com
If you own one of the iPad models with a built-in camera, you've likely figured out that the image quality that it produces isn’t nearly as good as your iPhone.
The biggest difference is in the optics of iPad camera; they're just not that sophisticated, but I know lots of people that prefer having the large display to get a shot.
If you really want to use your iPad for photography, a way to vastly improve the sophistication is by using one of the photography apps designed to boost the image quality on the iPad.
One of my favorites is called Blux Camera for iPad because it has a number of features that will help you step up the quality of the images you can capture.
Rather than waiting until you take the picture to give you various filters and adjustable photo settings, the Blux app gives you the controls on-screen before you take the shot!
Another helpful feature is called PEAR, which stands for Photographic Environment Analysis and Recommendation.
It's like having an experienced photo assistant giving you suggestions on how to get a better shot based on the environment you are shooting in.
I've posted the direct link to the Blux App at DataDoctors.com/radio
You've probably noticed that many websites will allow you to use one of your social media accounts to sign up for a free service, instead of having to fill out a form.
It's usually presented as a faster process to get started with the site, but what you need to understand is that you’re exchanging your profile information for this faster access to the service or info that you seek.
A lot of apps also offer this same convenience, so if you've opted to use this method, you’ve given your permission to dozens of sites to allow them to access your profile info.
If you know how to find them, there are generally settings buried deep at each of the sites with the ability to revoke their access.
A web resource called http://MyPermissions.org takes all the hard work out of finding those settings for many of the major networks.
All you have to do is click on the icon for the sites you want to revoke, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google and you are transported right to the settings to make the changes.
You can even sign up for specific alerts when a new app or service gains access to your info and they offer a mobile app to allow you to clean on the go.
Visit http://MyPermissions.org to get started!
Whenever your car starts making strange noises, you generally pay attention, right?
Well, when it comes to your computer, you should start doing the same thing because those strange sounds can be a warning sign that a meltdown is impending.
Whether it’s grinding, whirring or buzzing, it’s generally a sign that one of the moving parts in your computer is showing signs of wear.
The cooling fans, for instance, are very common points of failure and worse yet, if the noise stops by itself, it could very well mean that your fan stopped working altogether.
Since heat is the single biggest threat to all of your electronics, allowing your cooling fans to stop spinning is like having and empty radiator in your car.
Whenever you hear any kind of clicking sound, especially if you can’t get your computer to start up, you should immediately shut it off and seek professional help. Any kind of clicking noise from your computer generally mean that your hard drive has failed.
Trying to restart your computer in hopes of getting it to work will cause irreparable damage and is almost certain to lead to permanent data loss, so be very careful with this specific sound.
Learn more at http://www.datadoctors.com/help/columns/21814
Home automation devices that are affordable made a big presence once again at this pas year’s CES with a much larger variety of companies promoting their systems.
While low cost and the easy-to-install devices can be very interesting, choosing the wrong platform may become a problem down the road.
Huge players like Samsung and LG are integrating smart home features into many of their appliances, they aren’t likely to support devices outside of their own partnerships.
If you’re serious about Do-It-Yourself home automation, something to look at are the more open standards that supports the many protocols and gadgets that are on the market.
One of my favorites is still the SmartThings platform because they created an open standard that’ll also work with over a thousand different automation devices including the Phillips Hue lightbulbs and Belkin’s popular WeMo devices.
What makes the platform even better is that anyone can generate new uses for the platform and share them with the rest of the SmartThings community.
A note of warning: since all of these system work off of your home’s wireless network, it’s critical that you’ve setup solid security on your wireless router before you start adding these devices.
Learn more at http://www.smartthings.com
Most of us spend a lot of time on the Internet and in doing so, open lots of tabs as you surf, so you’ve probably run into this scenario:
You’re in the middle of reading a news story on a website when all of the sudden some commercial video starts blaring from one of the other sites that you have opened, but you have no idea which one it could be.
You have to then go clicking through all the open tabs to figure out which one of the previous sites is causing the obnoxious noise...what a pain!
The wizards over at Google must have had just about enough of this themselves, because they made a tweak to their Chrome browser to minimize this irritation.
With Chrome, whenever a background website is generating any kind of noise, a small icon that looks like a speaker will appear on the right side of the tab so you quickly identify the offending site.
You can pause the video by clicking on the tab to find the video or simply click the X on the tab to shut the whole page down.
It’s just another reason why Google’s Chrome browser is still one of my favorites!
Today’s tech tip is a bit on the uncomfortable side because it’s about death.
Let’s face it, so much of our lives are invested in online accounts that should you meet with an untimely demise, your friends and family members could end up with a huge task whilst grieving.
If no one in your family has any of your passwords and you pass away, the hoops they have to jump through to unlock your accounts will be different for each site, making the process both frustrating and time consuming.
Those security measures that are created to keep malicious users from accessing your information will also be a big roadblock as your family tries to settle your affairs.
You can store your passwords in a password management program or a safety deposit box but keep in mind, your passwords will likely change over time.
If there’s one set of credentials for someone that you trust to have, It’s your e-mail username and password, because that’s where password reset requests generally get sent.
With access to this single account, you executor can find the online accounts you used and have passwords resets sent there if necessary.
It’s not something we want to think about, but it’s something we should all be thinking about!
Just about everything we do on the Internet is made faster through a process known as ‘caching’ which stores elements of the websites you’ve previously visited on your computer in a temporary folder.
This caching process makes websites load much faster because your compuer doesn’t have to download every element of the website from the Internet.
By pulling the images, text and videos from your local hard drive, your page will load much faster, but sometimes it can all work against you.
Whenever you go to a website that won't load properly, it's possible that your computer is trying to load an incomplete cached version of the site from your temporary directory.
If this happens to you in the future give this little trick a shot: hold down the CTRL button down and tap the F5 key along the top of your keyboard.
It’s a universal shortcut that works on all the major browsers and it tells your computer to skip the cache and download everything from the website.
It’s a really great way to troubleshoot strange website behaviors; if it loads everything properly, you’ll know its time to clear your browser’s cache.
How to Clear Your Browser’s Cache: http://goo.gl/V3H1x8
Last week, I discussed the dangers of using the same password on all your accounts, which always leads to this question: How the heck do I remember all those passwords?
The simple answer is you can’t; you'll need help from some type of password management program in order to use long, complicated passwords on each of your online accounts.
Password management software is an easy way to create and manage all your passwords across all your devices and websites in a secure manner.
Using them means you only need to remember is one password.
Most all of them include encrypted storage of your passwords,
password generators, auto form fillers, 2-factor verification and can integrate right into your browser or mobile device.
The initial process may seem a bit complicated for some non-technical users, but once your password manager is setup, it’s really simple to use.
One of my recommendations for new users is LastPass which comes in both free and premium versions. You can test it out with the free version and only pay the annual fee if you want the premium features.
This issue is too important to ignore, so get help if you need it.
Data breaches can be tracked back to the late 1800’s from news articles about thieves stealing important records, so they’re nothing new.
Cyber-thieves go where the data lives and the last couple of years have been some of the worst on record based on the volume of records exposed by data breaches.
What’s very important to understand is that when your account information is ever breached, you can’t ever use the associated password ever again.
The underworld started compiling huge databases of stolen passwords long ago, because they know that a large number of users will use the same password on many online accounts.
When they target a site, they don’t have to guess what a password might be, they can just cross reference the hashed password against the stolen password database.
Knowing if your accounts have ever been breached is important, so there are couple of web resources posted at DataDoctors.com/radio that will allow you to check to see if you’re e-mail address or username is part of the known breached accounts
Using long unique passwords on every site is key, so on Monday, I’ll share password management tips with you.
When it comes to using the Internet, we’ve all become accustomed to a certain level of performance, so when things don’t work the way that we expect, frustration sets in.
Not knowing whether it’s the Internet connection or your computer or some other confusing geek speak like a DNS server or a firewall preventing access just adds to the problem.
The problem can be even more problematic on the road, when you have to get some work done using a hotel or coffee shop wifi connection that’s just not getting the job done.
A free tool for diagnosing these types of problems is available for Google Chrome and it can be a big help. The Connectivity Diagnostic browser add-on is a really easy way to do what it suggests: diagnose all of the variables that impact your surfing session.
Once the add-on is installed, you just click on it to run an extensive test that checks 9 different connectivity components and lets you know if any of them is causing your issues.
Even when you don’t have a clue what it’s telling you, the information comes in very handy when you call someone else for help!
You’re surfing the Internet as you always do and suddenly an official looking warning pops up and claims that you’re computer has been infected. Since it appears to look like an official Windows warning, you tap the OK button and the next thing you know, you’re toast.
The fake warning takes over your system and won't allow you to do anything else, but they do offer to fix your newly discovered problem for a small fee.
This scenario is fooling folks into paying because they are very convincing and scary at the same time, which is causing a big increase in these types of malicious attacks in recent weeks.
They often use program names like Windows Ultimate Booster and Windows Safety Master, but if you click on any part of the pop-up, even the cancel button, the program will still execute its attack.
The next time you see anything unusual pop-up claiming to be an official warning, don’t click on anything in the box to play it safe. You can sidestep the attempt by pressing Ctrl-Alt-Del which brings up the Task Manager and the option to select the scam and end the process.
If you’re unfamiliar with this process for both Windows and Mac operating systems, we’ve posted a link to an instructional video at DataDoctors.com/radio
Attempting to speak a foreign language can be truly intimidating, especially if you’re self-conscious about the pronunciation of foreign words.
Hearing others pronounce the words properly can go a long way to improving your confidence, but it’s not very practical to call a bilingual friend every time you want help pronouncing a particular word or phrase.
Well, a web resource called http://Forvo.com can become you virtual multi-lingual friend whenever you want help pronouncing words or phrases in over 300 languages.
It’s a crowdsourcing site that allows folks from all over the world to record how just how they say words in their native tongue. What’s great about the collective is that even if a word or phrase isn’t in the database, you can request to have someone record it for you.
For anyone about to take a trip abroad, downloading the audio for words and phrases you plan to use can be invaluable.
As a bonus tip, when you need to translate words from English before you use Forvo, just ask Google to translate first so you can get the authentic pronunciation from the site.
You can now communicate with more confidence when you’re faced with ordering a meal in a foreign restaurant with the help of your smartphone!